The Government has announced that from early next year, they are significantly increasing the level of fines which they can impose upon employers who are found to be employing workers unlawfully.  Under the new regime, employers will face initial fines of up to £45,000.00 per illegal worker and bearing in mind the current level is £15,000.00 this is an extremely significant increase.  The level of fine is also going to increase from £20,000.00 to £60,000.00 for employees involved in repeat breaches of the regulations.

In addition to tightening up on preventing illegal working, the Government have also announced that the fines for Landlords will also increase, again from early next year.  Currently, Landlords can be fined £80.00 per lodger and £1,000.00 per occupier for a first breach of the regulations, but from early next year, the fines will increase up to £5,000.00 per lodger and £10,000.00 per occupier.  For Landlords who have been found to repeatedly breach the regulations, the fines will be up to £10,000.00 per lodger and £20,000.00 per occupier.

It is important to bear in mind that for employers, civil penalties are not the only consequences for an employer found to be employing illegal workers.  If that employer also holds a Home Office Sponsor Licence, then the Home Office have the power to revoke or  suspend the Licence.  There is also criminal liability which can be imposed as it is a criminal offence if an employer knows or has reasonable cause to believe that they are employing an illegal worker.  The maximum penalty is five years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.  The individuals themselves can be prosecuted and imprisoned for up to six months.  The Home Office position is that by introducing such measures, employers and Landlords will think twice before engaging in illegal practices and consequently that this should deter people from trying to come to the UK unlawfully.  Employers need to be extremely vigilant and perhaps now more so than ever.  There are many actions which employers can take to minimise the risk of falling fowl of the regulations and incurring civil and criminal liability.  All employers are required to conduct right to work checks before employment commences including carrying out follow-up checks against those individuals who have time limited permission to work in the UK.

For advice on this or any other Immigration issues, please do not hesitate to contact Sohan Sidhu.